It’s been six months now since I’ve moved back to the States. And while I’ve been 100% more inspired by all the magic that happens in San Francisco, I miss my people.
My people being expats. After four years living abroad I connect so easily to those who have also actively chosen to leave home and try somewhere else out for size.
I about to sound like a big, fat whiner here and I really need to learn to be more grateful, but I’ve had a hard time fitting in here in San Francisco. I know I need to cut myself some slack because, well, it’s been six months and I knew a grand total of zero people before moving. But… I think it’s me. And my attitude towards America and Americans. I love being American. I am most definitely patriotic and glad to have grown up here, but do I want to be here forever? Six months in and my answer is still no.
I know very few Americans who have lived overseas for extended periods of time. And while I will always love and adore my friends in this great country, here’s why I think everyone should try to live abroad at least once.
Your Voice Will Automatically Become Softer and More Pleasing to the Ear
We are a seriously loud people. Americans need to stop trying to talk over each other and listen. Understand that the person at the opposite end of the bus doesn’t need to hear about your hernia. As I type this I am sitting in Long Beach Airport waiting for my flight to Vegas (BiSC baby!) and a girl four gates down is ordering food for her church fundraiser. I know this because SHE IS WAY TOO LOUD.
General Life Activities Will Suddenly Become 1000 Times Harder and it Will Teach You to Use Your Brain
Opening a bank account in a foreign country is hard. Applying for visas will murder your brain. Learning road rules when people drive on the left is accident-inducing. Figuring out wifi is hard. Learning new grocery store layouts is hard. Living abroad is what I imagine losing your right hand is like. You have to learn everything you’ve ever known all over again. You have to retrain your brain and I think that’s healthy every once in a while.
Friends You Make Abroad Are Unlike Any Friendships You’ve Ever Had
The older I get, the more I appreciate the different types of friends I have: Childhood friends, work friends, soulmate friends, industry friends, drinking friends, brainstorming friends… Living abroad friends, however, are a different breed entirely. They relate to you in a way no one else ever could. You are instantly besties, none of this yearlong courting and occasional drinks that happens here. You meet in a bar one day, the next you’re sharing a sleeping bag on top of a mountain. And you keep in touch longer. I can go years without talking to my childhood friends, but every time we see each other it’s like nothing has ever changed. Abroad friends are used to Skyping/phoning/emailing and are great about keeping in touch (Hi Helen! Hi Matt! Hi Amanda!).
How to Talk to Strangers and Constantly Ask for Help
This sucks for us introverts, but talking to strangers (especially in a new language) is a bitch. But when you’re forced to do it over and over again (at the grocery store, at the bank, on the street, in your apartment) it becomes second nature. You become friendlier, more approachable and less shy. And then when you come home, you are suddenly the most extroverted introvert anyone has ever met and it’s glorious.
The World Doesn’t Actually Revolve Around America. In Fact, Most People Don’t Care About Us At All
I absolutely expected people to hate on me as soon as I first moved to Spain at 16. And while alot of people ragged on Bush, we were mostly not part of the conversation. When I lived in New Zealand, I rarely ever heard American news. Surprisingly enough, New Zealand was more concerned with things happening – wait for it – in New Zealand. It really takes a giant step away from America to realize how small and insignificant we really are.
For those of you who have lived abroad, any additions? For those of you who haven’t, would you consider it?
[DISCLAIMER: Please excuse me if I sound like a complete douche. Before you comment saying that I’m Anti-American or a snobby traveler, please note that I love America and Americans. I know that travel isn’t accessible or possible for everyone.]